E. B. White’s book about the unlikely friendship between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig is one of the most beloved children’s novels of all time, and also serves as the theme of the latest word game from MumboJumbo.
Just as Charlotte wove words into her web to try and save Wilbur from ending up as a tender pork chop on someone’s dinner plate, the goal of Charlotte’s Web: Word Rescue is to weave words into your own web to score points and earn different coloured ribbons.
The web contains a jumble of letters, and words can be formed by linking side-by-side letters together by either clicking on them one by one to form a word, or simply dragging the mouse over the entire group. The game’s vocabulary dictionary is a bit wonky; beyond ignoring the usual vulgar words it won’t even acknowledge a word like "gun," which perhaps a little too severe.
When you make a word, the letters disappear, new letters from the bottom of the screen slide into place, and the parts of the web where the word was get illuminated. If you can illuminate the entire web, you’ll earn score multipliers.
You’ll also encounter various special tiles that appear randomly in the web, such as the butterfly, which acts like the blank tile in Scrabble and can represent any letter in a word; and the dew drop letter, which when used in a word sends dew drops throughout the web to illuminate additional letters. Most of these icons are helpful, but others, like the dust devil that appears if you create too many three-letter words, will actually wreak havoc on the web by making segments dull again unless you can quickly weave it into a word to make it disappear.
As you complete each of the 75 levels in Story Mode, you’ll wind your way around a map that takes you through all the familiar locations of the book and relates an abridged version of the story as you go along. When you complete all the levels in an area, you’ll earn a new charm that acts as a permanent upgrade that can be used in all future levels. Upgrades include the horseshoe, which provides bonus words during puzzles that can be spelled to get bonus points; and the moth, which appears at the bottom of the web and if you manage to get it to the top by clearing letters above it, will automatically illuminate 10 spaces in the web. There are eight of these charms in all, and you can bring any three of them with you into an area.
Fans of the novel will especially get a kick out of the game’s final feature: a quote book that presents quotes from Charlotte’s Web as blank characters whose letters have to be filled in by forming words in the web. When you spell a word in the web, the first letter of that word will fill in the corresponding letter in the quote book: for example, spelling the word "easy" in the web will reveal all the E’s in the quote, if there are any. The sooner you can guess the quote, the more bonus points it’s worth.
The challenge and appeal of Charlotte’s Web: Word Rescue lies in the fact that there are multiple goals to strive for during the game. The basic objective of course is to form words (the bigger the better) to earn points and clear the level, but you also have to think about illuminating the web to earn the coveted score multipliers, forming specific words to unlock letters in the quote book, and dealing with various special tiles and bonuses that appear. There’s also a limited amount of time to get it all done in. If you want even more of a challenge, you can try Turn Mode, where levels must be completed in a limited number of turns.
So many games based on movies or books range from nothing to write home about to downright dismal, but Charlotte’s Web: Word Rescue delivers both good gameplay and nice touches (like the quote book) that will appeal to fans of Charlotte’s Web.